Responding to a question live-tweeted to her during a digital town hall Friday, Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta didn’t miss a beat in defending the federal government’s push to hire veterans.
Celebrating her first year in the administrator role, Archuleta invited the public to ask her questions about the future of the federal workforce in an open forum hosted via Google Hangout. About halfway through, she received the tweeted question on veteran hirings:
#AmericasWorkforce – why is it so hard for civilians to get jobs in Fed Govt nowadays? Vets block all the positions civilians need jobs too
— The Devine MrsM (@DvineMrsM) November 14, 2014
But that’s a misconception, she said, before going on to defend veteran hiring.
“First of all, I’m going to say that I am a very, very strong proponent of veterans preference,” Archuleta said. “I believe that the men and women who serve in our military and come home need to have an opportunity to continue their service.”
Archuleta further vouched for the returning soldiers saying it gives the federal government a chance to leverage “those skills, that experience, how do you organize, how do you schedule, how do you develop the strategies for implementing,” which she said are “skills we need in federal government.”
But the woman who tweeted the question might have some ground to stand on thanks to a study released in August by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. MSPB, which resides as an independent agency in the executive branch as a guardian of the federal merit system, found that there might be some undue preference for hiring veterans in the federal government, or at least that’s how some of the federal workforce perceives it.
“In an MSPB survey, 6.5 percent of respondents indicated that they had observed inappropriate favoritism towards veterans while 4.5 percent reported observing a knowing violation of veterans’ preference rights,” MSPB reported. “The survey data showed that employees are less likely to be engaged and more likely to want to leave their agencies if they report having observed either of these two types of conduct.”
OPM has several vet-friendly hiring initiatives, and recently the office announced a new STEM focus under its Vets to Feds Career Development Program. This addition will be the program’s fourth since 2011.
Later in the discussion, Archuleta continued her stand for veterans and specifically the women who leave the military after serving. She said this is one of her major focuses as vice chairwoman of the Veterans Employment Council, an honor she shared with Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald.
“Together, we’re focused in on how we can bring more women veterans into the federal workforce,” she said. “The skills that women veterans can bring to us and to the federal service is really important, and I want to bring more.”
The director addressed another group underrepresented in federal government, millennials, during her town hall. While the future of the federal workforce won’t get the preferential treatment veterans do, Archuleta said OPM is at work making sure those young minds consider the federal workforce.
“We’re going where they’re at,” she said. “We’re using social [media] a way that we’ve never used it before.” OPM is using social applications like Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as plain language, humor and graphics, hoping to reach to them.
Additionally, Archuleta said there’s a working plan to revamp USAJobs.gov. Right now the agency is using Lean Six Sigma to audit the application process and make it a more meaningful to reduce the time in hiring new talent.